NEW: Amendment 1 lacks real consequence for Missourians

By Allison Blood

JEFFERSON CITY – Even if voters back Amendment 1 on Election Day, the ballot initiative might not affect any Missourians.

If passed, the ballot initiative would amend the state constitution to require charter counties to elect, rather than appoint, their assessors. Theoretically, the initiative would affect only four counties in the state: St. Louis County, St. Charles County, Jackson County and Jefferson County. The measure could prove moot, though, because three of the counties already elect or will begin electing their assessors.

St. Charles and Jefferson counties already elect their assessors and, in August, St. Louis County voted to begin electing its assessors in April of 2011.

Jackson County, the remaining county, is also currently exempt from this amendment.The provision would exempt any charter county with a population of between 600,000 and 700,000 residents; according to 2008 Census data, Jackson County includes fewer than 670,000 residents.

State Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-St. Louis County, proposed Amendment 1 as a resolution during the last legislative session.He said he did not specifically target Jackson County in the legislation because he’s a representative for St. Louis County, not Jackson County.

“Personally, I think that would be a good thing, but I’ll let Jackson County deal with that. I went up there as an elected representative from St. Louis County, that was really my main goal,” Schmitt said.”At the end of the day that’s what we’ve been able to accomplish and I’m proud of that.”

Schmitt said that even if Jackson County fails to meet the population exemption, it probably won’t be subject to the amendment. He added that the legislation, now mostly irrelevant, made more sense for St. Louis County a year ago.

“In 2009 when I went up there, and we actually got it on the ballot for 2010, it was the first opportunity to get it on the ballot,” Schmitt said. “Since then, now, people are going to be voting on it even though it’s already been voted on in St. Louis County, but you sort of have to look at this in context of when we actually got it on the ballot last year.”

Assessors are in charge of determining the property values of both real and personal property within their district. State Tax Commission Chief Counsel Randy Turley, who oversees the state’s assessors and ensures they are doing their jobs, said he hasn’t seen any difference in the accuracy of assessments between elected and non-elected assessors.

Even so, Schmitt stands behind his legislation, saying it solidifies the accountability of the property assessors.

“The St. Charles assessor has been noted in a (University of Missouri, St. Louis) study as one of the most accurate assessors in the State, so we really look at that model for this legislation,” he said.